I’m a traitor. I’ve become a spoiled wine brat. I used to be the $15-and-under wine adventurer who proudly lived on Côtes du Rhône, Monastrell and whatever amazing Bordeaux Superieur just went on sale at my favorite Miami Beach wine boutique. Any leaps over $15 were the benefit of my voracious food and wine writing career.

I’m often invited to wine dinners and festivals where my palate swims through Krug bubble baths and lands on Diamond Creek Cabernet experiences not for the faint in palate. Then I started dating a seasoned sommelier who invited me to the types of tastings discriminating wine lovers fantasized about. I enjoyed sips from conspicuous Champagne houses and Red Burgundy bottles that have been locked in cellars for decades.

But this freelance writer has had to amplify her hustle, so I’ve skipped some of these luxurious wine journeys and returned humbly to the land of $15-and-under wine. I recently bought the 2008 Finca Lopez Noceti Malbec 1919 for $7 at Costco. Most entry level Malbec bottles I’ve had are like baby Zinfandels—big, dark, fruity, jammy, and delicious. But this bottle was disappointing, like the cute guy in the black suit who turns out to be a high school-horny manchild. There was a quick burst of dark fruit followed by some dried red fruit, but then it became hollow on the mid-palate. There was no conversation, no consistency. But what did I expect for a $7 wine, right?

After that episode, I made a conscious effort to attend a private wine lunch with Numanthia’s Director of Bodega—Manuel Louzada. The 2008 Numanthia unraveled on my palate like a love story. The earthy cacao aromas emerged from the rich, dark violet color. On the palate, there were flavors of dark cherry, dark chocolate, mint, and leather. The 2009 Termes Numanthia is Yusef Komunyakaa’s poem, “Copacetic Mingus” with its aromas and flavors of vanilla, black currant, crushed violets and black pepper riding high and low on the palate. There were medium-high tannins, but it was super delicious. The deep violet 2008 Termanthia offered aromas and flavors of blackberries, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon.

I felt like the prodigal son who was welcomed back to the land of high budget wines. Mr. Louzada said that they practice foot crushing in his winery, so I admit that that added to the romance of the moment. I was tasting some sexy, Spanish man’s feet in my wine lol.

Dinkinish O’Connor is an award-winning writer. Her food sojourns have taken her everywhere from the shanty town bistros of Kingston to the gnarly vineyards of Bordeaux. She has written for Wine Spectator, Condé Nast Traveler, The Miami Herald and other publications. Dinkinish received her sommelier certification and hosts innovative wine tastings. To see what’s happening in Dinkinish’s sumptuous, little world, check out, “Gourmet Squatter,” a blog that explores how to sip high on a low budget.